This years Challenge Cup, for many reasons, is the icing on the cake for Leeds Rhinos fans. We couldn’t have faced a more ideal team than Warrington Wolves who feature two of our former players in Richie Mathers and Adrian Morley. Both Leeds Rhinos academy products from different eras that have since gone onto win things with other teams.
Adrian Morley played for Leeds from 1996 to 2000 and was in that record breaking 1999 Challenge Cup Final where Leeds ran out 52 - 16 victorious winners against London Broncos. Since 2000 Morley has gone on to achieve an NRL Grand Final win along with a SL Grand Final win and another Challenge Cup win with Warrington last year. On the other hand Richie Mathers played for the Leeds team from 2002 to 2007 where he was a vital member of that legendary 2004 league and championship double winning season. The following year in 2005 he was part of the team that took apart Canterbury Bulldogs to become a world club champion. Since leaving Leeds Rhinos Richie Mathers had a stint in the NRL and won the challenge cup with Warrington last year.
Perhaps most fitting of all is facing our former coach Tony Smith, who definitely fashioned the heart of this triple champion Leeds Rhinos team and helped to make it what it is today. He guided us to our first championship win in 32 years in 2004 with a 16–8 win over Bradford Bulls, in the Grand Final at Old Trafford, in front of a sell-out crowd. In 2007 Tony Smith left the Rhinos after guiding us to an unexpected 33–6 win over St Helens. Since then Leeds Rhinos have gone on to win the Grand Final every year with Brian McClennan at the helm.
However the Challenge Cup has seemed to escape this set of players who’ve won every other domestic honour that can be won in England. Anyone who has won the challenge cup in this current Leeds squad have done it at other clubs, with Senior been the prime example. With Brian McClennan now leading this great team of players I believe that saturday is truly our day. He hasn’t relied on what Tony Smith has built here - he’s gone and made it so much better!
Come On You Rhinos!